Everyone’s a loser!

No one wins when the United States begins defunding United Nations organizations. As the US defunded UNESCO because it recognized Palestine as a sovereign state, the world collectively sighed as it became obvious that the United States will continue to distrust Palestine and back Israel, even as it claims it supports a two state solution. What is going to happen now? Is Palestine going to go door to door enlisting UN organizations to recognize it as a nation, while the US goes down a list and checks off the organizations it plans to defund? I think that at the end of the process, however many years down the road that may be, the United States is going to look stupid as it crawls back to the UN with its tail between its legs, cash in hand.

The US needs to reach out to both Palestine and Israel and almost force them to get together and engage in peace talks. Punishing the UN, as Tess said, will not get the US anywhere.

Word is now coming through that Israel may have blown up an Iranian missile base, in order to try and prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. This is going to be a huge setback to any peace talks that might have occurred, as all it does is decrease trust in the region.

Currently there are no winners in the region and until the US or another power has massive amounts of leverage over Palestine and Israel and can force them to reach an agreement, it’s not going to happen.


Air Force Cybersecurity Lapse

A couple of stories about an Air Force cybersecurity lapse caught my attention recently and I thought I’d summarize what has happened at Creech Air Force Base in the last month or so.

Pilots at Creech Air Force Base remotely fly the US’ overseas drones using elaborate computer setups. This allows them to “Take out the Taliban and be home for dinner” as the New York Times put it. Unfortunately, sometime around late September, the computers’ security systems noticed a piece of malware installed in these sensitive systems. This keylogger captured all data entered into the computers used to fly the drones, but it is not known what it did with the data after that. It is also unknown how the malware found it’s way through the military’s so-called “Air Gap” which physically separates critical systems from the internet, with the intention of preventing situations like this from happening.

The worst part about this story is that higher-ups in the Air Force found out about the keylogger from a post on Wired Magazine’s “Danger Room” blog that cited anonymous sources at the base complaining that the keylogger kept on defying their attempts to erase it off the infected computers. This shows that the military has not yet done enough to prepare for the future of digital warfare and that more training is needed to make sure that situations like this one are reported and fixed immediately. Even if the keylogger was “nothing to worry about,” we are not sure when something that we need to worry about will be detected on our networks. What will the response be then?







Post 9/11 Airport Security

Sadly the United States squandered it’s chance to turn a terrorist attack into a positive learning experience for the world. After the first terrorist attack on US soil since Oklahoma City in 1995, the government and the people wanted action. While it is understandable that the knee-jerk reaction is total retaliation, I believe that the US system of checks and balances should have sprung into action to prevent the conflict of everyday life versus security that we find ourselves in.


As Professor Crowley wrote in his earlier post, “after a decade of achievements, adjustments and missteps, we haven’t decided which is which: what we did right and, despite the best of intentions, what we did wrong; how to balance competing imperatives such as security and accountability, and secrecy and privacy; and how to administer justice effectively, fairly and transparently while remaining faithful to our laws and values.”


One example of balancing security and and accountability is the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA was created following the September 11th attacks and was tasked with ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public in the United States. Airport security checkpoints were redesigned to be “more secure” so that terrorists could not bring sharp objects or weapons aboard aircraft. What ultimately resulted was a cacophony of rules and regulations that has left passengers and security screeners alike frustrated and disillusioned.


TSA rules have slowed down security checkpoints and turned flying into a hassle that many wish they could avoid. This would be allowable if these checkpoints were definitely making us safer, but sadly there have been too many security lapses to prove that. It seems as if every month we hear about a TSA training exercise that failed to catch a concealed weapon. The TSA has also created it’s own scandal with the full body scanner program. These scanners’ effectiveness has not been proved (apparently they don’t work through shiny clothing) and it is still unknown if TSA agents can save and view images of passengers’ nude bodies later.


Aside from the mechanics of airport security screening, there is one glaring flaw with the TSA’s overall mentality. We need to screen people, not their belongings. The terrorists on 9/11 did not have guns or bombs, they used plastic knives and box cutters to take control of the airplanes.  Patrick Smith, an airline pilot with a column on Salon.com sums it up perfectly: “TSA’s approach is fundamentally flawed in that it treats everybody — from employees to passengers, old and young, domestic and foreign — as a potential threat. We are all suspects. Together with a preposterous zero-tolerance approach to weapons, be they real or perceived, this has created a colossal apparatus that strives for the impossible.” What the United States should have done in response to 9/11 was adopt an airport security system similar to that of Israel’s. Israeli airport security is complex, but essentially puts virtual rings of security around the planes, with each ring becoming more secure. Furthermore, passengers are all subject to questioning by an airport security guard who judges how they respond and act. Only passengers who act suspiciously or are on a watch list are subjected to extra screening. While there are racial profiling concerns, automated kiosks can ease these fears.


Is there a perfect way to conduct airport security? I do not think so, but there must be a better way than how the TSA’s current system, which still looks and feels as if it were cobbled together overnight even ten years after 9/11.